by His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos
St Andrew’s Theological College, founded in Sydney in 1986, is the only accredited Orthodox tertiary institution in the Southern Hemisphere.
That which is therefore stated below briefly, yet responsibly, on the occasion of the formal celebration of the 20th anniversary of our Theological College (1986-2006), is in fact not merely the indisputable historical truth which is abundantly substantiated both by our Archives as well as by the vivid testimony of relevant pioneers who are fortunately still alive. It is above all a statement of grateful thanksgiving to God in Trinity “who has looked with favour on the lowliness of His servants” (cf. Luke 1:48), and endowed us unexpectedly with a flourishing university-level Theological College of unadulterated Orthodox phronema.
During the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress (1981), the first during the term of Archbishop Stylianos, the delegates adopted, among other resolutions, his urgent proposal for the establishment of a Theological College as soon as possible. To this end, the Legal Adviser of the Archdiocesan Council, Sir Arthur George, pledged a contribution.
The following year, during the official visit to Australia in 1982 of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Constantine Karamanlis, Archbishop Stylianos raised the issue of establishing at least a simple training centre of the Church, which could equip our Clergy and teachers in Australia. This was mentioned in the presence also of the accompanying Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time, Yannis Haralambopoulos.
The request was not only considered to be just and realistic by that honorable leader within the Greek nation; it also prompted him to ask that a feasibility study be conducted before his departure. Indeed, he received this within three days, while copies were appropriately sent to the then Minister for Education, and subsequently Speaker of the House, A. Kaklamanis, who unfortunately totally ignored it. When pressed by another letter on our part, he was forced to reply in the coldest of terms that “the Church will take care of ecclesiastical education, not the Government”! Thereby disheartened through the indescribably uncaring stance of a senior State official of our land of birth, we were obliged to embark upon the following initiatives:
(a) We immediately re-energized the long inactive St Andrew’s Brotherhood, to which Clergy of all levels made their own annual contribution, in order to provide an example for any interested lay person. This undoubtedly provided a stimulus for the cause, at least in Sydney and New South Wales.
(b) We appointed a temporary Committee to explore all necessary presuppositions and submit a first draft of the program of studies to be offered by the Theological College. The members of the Committee (Protopresbyter Miltiades Chryssavgis, Deacon John Chryssavgis, Solicitor Michael Diamond, Assoc. Professor Emmanuel Aroney and Dr Harry L.N. Simmons) under the guidance especially of the Dean of the Uniting Church’s Theological College in Sydney and friend of the Orthodox Church, Dr Graeme Ferguson, met with relevant officials before presenting their Report to the Archbishop. Following the approval of this Report, the Archdiocesan Council (Property Trust) formed three Committees in December 1984:
1. Building Committee: Sir Arthur George, Niketas Katris, Peter Confos
2. Administrative Council: Archbishop Stylianos, Sir Arthur George, Michael Barbouttis, Michael Diamond, George Papanastasiou
3. Academic Committee: Archbishop Stylianos, Deacon John Chryssavgis, Protopresbyter Miltiades Chryssavgis, Professor Alexander Cambitoglou, Assoc. Professor Emmanuel Aroney and Dr Harry L.N. Simmons
(c) Upon completing 10 years of service in Australia, Archbishop Stylianos sent a special letter to one thousand acquaintances and friends among the faithful in Sydney who would be in a position to support a College for Priests and teachers, requesting a one-off contribution of $1,000 that could be invested immediately for this specific purpose. The fact that $350,000 was collected did not disappoint us. On the contrary, it comprised the necessary deposit that enabled us to boldly proceed with the purchase of a sizeable commercial property in Caringbah, Sydney, which would in turn assist the overall goal.
(d) By fortunately having a sufficient number of Orthodox in Sydney who were academically qualified and already working at other universities, we decided to establish a tertiary Theological College, instead of a mere teaching centre. This consequently encouraged Sir Arthur George to sign an agreement during the 5th Clergy-Laity Congress (Brisbane 1985) to provide the necessary funds for the first stage of development. Without having the resources to acquire a freestanding and spacious building, we were obliged to renovate and appropriately modify the premises of the Cathedral (Redfern) by utilizing Sir Arthur’s contribution of $250,000 for the creation of lecture rooms, the dormitories for interstate students who would be resident at the College, as well as the first office, library and common room.
Such was the background to the Opening of the College on February 23, 1986. The Dean of the Theological School of Halki, Metropolitan Maximos of Stavroupolis, was present, having been invited especially for the occasion. He brought with him a congratulatory message of Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios. Among other dignitaries of Church and State was also the State Premier Neville Wran, who responded positively on the same day to a relevant request by approving a grant to cover two thirds of the major restoration work required by the historic Cathedral. It was a gesture which in turn reinvigorated our spirits during the commencement of the Theological College which is adjacent to the Cathedral. At any rate, the total restoration project could not have been completed without the tireless work of Father John Grillis of the Cathedral, together with the Ladies Auxiliary.
Following the first stage of development made possible by the family of Sir Arthur, there was a need to utilize the vacated premises on the ground floor due to the transfer of the Kindergarten to the Parish of St Stefanos, Hurlstone Park. The family of the late Michael Paspalis met this challenge without any conditions or expectations of recognition. Their contribution matched that of Sir Arthur, while smaller donations – which were also significant at that critical period in the College’s life – were made anonymously by two of our Clergymen, several supportive businessmen and the Greek Young Matrons’ Association.
At the ceremony for the Opening of the College, Archbishop Stylianos, in his capacity also as Dean, clearly and straightforwardly outlined the self-understanding of such a tertiary institution, as well as its immediate and long-term goals, during his brief address:
“The establishment of the first Orthodox Theological College in the Southern Hemisphere is not, and could not possibly be, the achievement simply of one ethnic group or of a denomination. Orthodoxy does not represent a certain number of Christians, a portion of historic Christendom or an ideology dictated by geographical, racial or political conditions. Orthodoxy is the faithful continuation of the undivided Christian Church of the first millennium, as decisively expressed in the Ecumenical Councils. Orthodoxy is a precious legacy for us all. As such, it belongs to all Christians and, through them, to the whole of humankind. This is why the importance of the College that we are officially opening today is not so much expressed through the term ‘Theological’ as through the qualification ‘Orthodox’”.
Lessons were given initially by a small number of academic staff whose ‘missionary’ zeal was nonetheless sufficient to overcome any difficulties and compensate for whatever else may have been lacking.
This zeal was first of all expressed by the fact that all accepted to teach totally free of charge, given that there were no financial subsidies from either the Greek or Australian governments. At the same time, not even a basic fee was requested of the students, which in itself underlined that they were sponsored by the Church and, as such, would respond to the special calling to serve the Australian community as either Clergymen or educators.
With this sacred enthusiasm, the College grew in terms of organization and development in record time, thereby meeting the requirements to become a member institution of the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD). In this regard, it was very moving to have had the friendly support of Rev. Dr Graeme Ferguson, who has already been mentioned, as well as Prof. Raymond Nobbs (Dean of the SCD), Dr Vivienne Keely (former Director of Postgraduate Studies of the SCD) and Assoc. Professor Michael Horsburgh (Chair of the Academic Board of the SCD).
A further moving gesture of the SCD towards our Theological College was to award its first honorary doctorate (Honoris Causa) to its Dean, Archbishop Stylianos.
In unison with other member institutions of the SCD, our College currently offers the Bachelor of Theology degree as a three-year program of study. In the fourth year, students may proceed to the Bachelor of Theology (Honours) degree. This is a preparatory research degree and provides the first step for any candidate wishing to undertake a doctorate. In addition, postgraduate courses have recently been introduced, enabling the College to offer the following degrees:
- Master of Theology
- Master of Theology (Honours)
- Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry – This postgraduate degree is offered as a one and a half year course in the pastoral field, for the purpose of preparing future Priests and theologians to serve within the Church
- Master of Arts in Theological Studies – This is open to graduates of other disciplines who wish to gain some education in theology, to broaden their professional horizons as well as equip them to serve in a specialized ministry of the Church, eg. Sunday Schools and teaching Scripture in government schools. Course units are offered by one-week intensives during summer and winter school holidays as well as by regular weekly lectures during each semester.
- Master of Arts (Honours)
- Doctor of Theology
Another dimension of the development of the College – even if indirectly related – are the Greek Orthodox Youth Conferences which were pioneered here. They were also the result of a resolution of the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress (1981), and have been organized ever since, with the National Conferences preceding State Conferences in each alternate year. All papers delivered on a particular conference theme (either by local speakers or specialists invited from overseas) are published in a bi-lingual volume together with a complete list of the respective delegates.
In the 20-year journey of our College, it must be said that problems common to the field of academia (especially as it relates to theology) have of course arisen, parallel to the significant successes of students in terms of scholarship and number of ordained graduates. In this respect, let us not forget the old Latin saying odium theologicum! However, such problems have been resolved using the sole criterion of the greater benefit of the College and the Church, for which reason God enabled them to be dealt with effectively.
One such issue was the vacancy which was unforeseeably created in the subjects of Patristics (Church Fathers) and Church History in general. This void was filled successfully by Professor Markos Orfanos who, as a visiting lecturer from Athens over several years, contributed eagerly and selflessly in spite of the hardships we faced, and imbued our students with theological ethos and phronema through his exemplary teaching.
The acquisition of theological ethos and Orthodox phronema remains, in any case, the main objective of the College, which is why its annual theological review, published in English so that it may have a readership anywhere around the world, bears precisely the characteristic title of PHRONEMA.
In conclusion, two lists below provide a comprehensive overview of those who have been involved in this sacred task since its inception. The first provides the names of inaugural members of faculty and various committees at the commencement of the College in 1986, while the second outlines the years in which the academic staff, both past and present, have taught at St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College.
They offer a glimpse into our conviction, expressed with appreciation at the outset, that this College is indeed an unexpected ‘miracle’ of divine providence. It is an ‘achievement’ about which the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia may well be proud. Equally, however, we must admit and recall – out of respect for accuracy and historical truth – that the past conditions under which Australians of Greek heritage found themselves would not have allowed us to dream even of a basic Church Seminary (let alone a tertiary Theological College) for at least many decades to come!
For this reason, the assertion that has been expressed from time to time by, well-meaning perhaps, publications (including some of our Archdiocese) that at least several of the late predecessors of the author vividly held a vision and plan for a Theological College, no doubt belongs to the realm of unsubstantiated fantasy! It is of course possible that they sensed the need to offer concise and basic education to the few young Clergymen who served during those years. However, any ambition to secure even secondary education in this field on an institutional level would have certainly betrayed a completely unrealistic estimation of local conditions at that time – to say nothing of the very concept of ‘education’ in general, and of theological education in particular!